Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Five Possible ‘New World Orders’ after Crimea

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 19 – Arguing that “after the Crimean events, the world will not be what it was” because key element of the previous international system – the inviolability of national borders – has been finally and irrevocably violated, four Moscow analysts say that this opens the door to five possible “new world orders” in the future.

            In an article on the “Russky reporter” portal yesterday, Dmitry Kartsev, Vladimir shpak, Andrey Veselov, and Nikolay Anishchenko say that “in a broad sense,” this principle was violated with the disintegration of the USSR and Yugoslavia but that these events did not challenge the principle in the way Crimea does (

            That is because in the earlier cases, the four say, none of the pieces of the pre-existing country was absorbed by anyone else and because until very recently, “the guarantor of everything that has been taking place was the United States acting in the role of a world policeman” even though, they argue, it violated its own principles in pursuit of its interests.

            Why did Moscow decide to act as it has in the case of Crimea? The answer is simple, they suggest: “because it understood that if nothing changes in the interntional system, only stagnation and slow extinction awaits” the Russian Federation.  Consequenty, “Russia decided to change the world” even at great risk.

            The four then offer a list of four possible worlds that may result from the current crisis: a multi-polar world, a bi-polar world “‘version 2.0,’” a unipolar world with a new Pax Americana, a world of ‘‘beseiged fortresses,’” and a world without leaders. In their article, they discuss the basic features of each, arguing that which one emerges will hinge on how the powers act now.

            Under the first scenario, the basic players will be “EuroRussia from Lisbon to Vladivostok, the US, China, and later Latin America and an Islamic khalifate. American hostility to Moscow will drive Europe and especially Germany and France into cooperation with Moscow, and Moscow will thus return to alliances with territorial rather than naval powers.

            The countries between old Europe and Russia will be offered “a two in one” form of development: “the improvement of their institutions and the mobility of an educated middle class from Europe, and the development of infrastructure and new work places from Russia,” the four say.

            This scenario will return tohte world to one resembling that at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries “with one essential difference.” The existence of nuclear weapons will prevent “a new world war” and mean that the struggles among the players will be conducted by “economic and political methods” -- especially between Russia and the EU core.

            The four Moscow writers offer equally detailed descriptions of the other four scenarios, and they acknowledge that the world could develop according to any one of them or even according to some combination of two or more.  Summarizing all the arguments in this 4400-word article is beyond the scope of this Window, but one additional aspect of their argument deserves to be mentioned.

            After presenting their five scenarios for the future, the four writers also discuss four earlier “world orders,” including the Westphalian system, the Vienna system, the Versailles-Washington system, and the Yalta-Potsdam system.  They point out – and this deserves to be remembered in assessing their predictions – that each new system not only reflected the breakdown of its predecessor but continued many of its predecessor’s features.

            That is likely to be true again, an insight that should inform the decisions of policy makers who either assume that the world will continue much as it has or that, after events like the Crimean Anschluss, it will be transformed beyond recognition and thus requires the overturning of all previous assumptions and policies.

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